At the moment there’s bit of a craze for unlined shoes going on, not only when it comes to light summer loafers, but also other models. Unlined has some nice benefits, but also brings with it several disadvantages that one should be aware of when buying. Here’s a walkthrough of the properties of an unlined shoe.
The standard in classic quality shoes is that they are fully lined with leather. When we talk about unlined shoes in this area they are seldom made completely without leather lining, the heel area and the stiffener there is always lined and it is often leather lining along the top edge at the opening to provide stability and protection. Sometimes the entire rear section is lined, approximately up to the tongue, while the vamp is left unlined.
We start with the good properties, the advantages. An unlined shoe is softer and often feels more comfortable right from the start. They will also be airier and cooler, and if the shoes are used barefoot, it’s often more comfortable with a slightly roughened flesh side or grain side (if it’s reversed calf suede) than usual leather lining, which can have a tendency to “stick” a little bit to the skin. That’s why the shoe type also traditionally have been used mainly for light summer loafers, that’s what its properties are best suited for. For models where you want a relaxed, casual feel of the shoe, it can also work well with unlined.
So if we go over to the disadvantages, there’s one very important one, and it’s the fact that the lifespan of an unlined shoe will be shorter than a standard leather lined. There is a big difference between just having a thin layer of leather compared to when you have a layer of lining leather plus usually different reinforcements between the uppers and lining. The former will inevitably wear down and break faster. Unlined shoes also lose their shape quicker and more. Worth noting is that since one usually uses chrome-tanned leather uppers for shoes, for those who walk in the shoes without socks there is a risk of chrome allergy symptoms. Going sockless in standard leather-lined shoes are okay also for those allergic, since in principle one always use chrome free leather lining. In summary, it’s good for those buying unlined shoes to be aware of the characteristics of such a shoe, also to know how to best use them.
That one doesn’t line shoes doesn’t necessarily mean that one want to cut costs, although it’s generally a bit cheaper to make an unlined shoe than a lined one. Fabric lined shoes is another thing, using textile canvas often then in the front half of the shoe, is exclusively about cutting costs, there are really no benefits, although some manufacturers claim that it would be cooler with fabric lining. But it does not transport moisture away in the same way as leather, starts to smell and get dirty, and is guaranteed to break faster, more like an unlined shoe in that regard.
One other thing to consider, is that one can be quite sceptical against unlined welted shoes, since you pay an upcharge for a construction that can be said to be unnecessary and makes the shoe stiffer and heavier. As we’ve talked about, inlined shoes will have uppers crack quicker than lined shoes. Looking at it that way it’s more logical to use Blake, Bologna or similar, which are lighter, more flexible yet resoleable constructions that goes more naturally with the soft shoe you want to achieve with unlined footwear.